The Hysterectomy Association

I was introduced to the Hysterectomy Association by my friend when she gave me a book called 101 Handy Hints to a Happy Hysterectomy. Coincidentally, she had a hysterectomy for similar reasons earlier this year. It’s been beneficial to us both as we’ve been able to discuss everything with no fear of offending each other with tales of pain, vaginal discharge and ‘did they stick the dressing on your pubes? How did you get it off?’.

She also knows my favourite treats.

The book was really useful, the title is self explanatory. The tips range from very sensible, such as Pelvic Floor Exercises, to the slightly more abstract Write a Poem to your Womb.

The Hysterectomy Association website is really useful too, with information regarding surgery, emotions, menopause and HRT. There’s also a discussion forum but I didn’t use that.

However, the thing I like most about the Hysterectomy Association was the series of daily emails that they send to you following surgery. The emails are sent daily for six weeks and tie into the appropriate stage of your recovery. I received emails about constipation relief, the 1 in 3 walking challenge, driving and HRT amongst many other things. I found it reassuring to read the daily emails and compare them to how I was progressing.

They also have a fundraising campaign called 5000 Fivers, I have donated to show my appreciation and to help to keep the Association going.

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What Happened in June

June was the month that I started to get back to normal. May saw lots of progress for me but June was when I started to be more me!

I did a lot of socialising. Over the past few years I’ve not gone out much. I was often too tired or the pain was unpredictable. I’ve been to a street food festival, a sausage festival, out for numerous lunches and two fun trips to London (both of which involved food, can you spot a theme?).

At the start of the month I went back to work. I only work part time and I work from home for the majority of the time so it wasn’t too difficult. My hours are flexible so I could still rest or have as lie-in if I felt tired. My employers have been really good, especially since I had over two months off with no notice.

I started to get my garden tidy. I started last year really but I didn’t get as far as I wanted. Now I have a border along the back fence with a few plants which I’ll add to over the next few months. I also bought lots of lights and new sun lounger. It’s looking much better even if it’s a little bare. The ground is like clay though so I’m struggling with that.

I got discharged by my consultant so given a clean bill of health, started on HRT, allowed to drive and allowed to exercise. The driving gave me my freedom back. I can walk but public transport is non existent in my town so I could only travel where my legs would take me.

The exercise has been great. For the 18 days that I was allowed to exercise in June I managed 16 workouts. I did a lot of Pilates and swimming, but also running, aquafit, body pump and very light free weight sessions. I’m definitely not as fit as I was two years ago so I’m working on building it up. Hopefully by doing a mix of things I’ll be stronger.

I’m looking forward to July. It’s going to be a good month. I’ve got lots of great plans and I’m still off university so I have lots of time to do it. Have a great month everyone!

How I’m Getting Fitter After Surgery

I’m two months post hysterectomy now and I’m starting to get back into my fitness regime. Up until four years I didn’t exercise at all, I had no interest in it. But I was 41 years old with high blood pressure so realised that I did have to do something to get myself fit. That’s when I started running and then going to the gym. I’m not a fast runner but I have run a marathon and frequently run half marathons. When I was ill and recovering from surgery I really missed it.

Whilst I was waiting for surgery I put on a lot of weight. I was still eating as though I was running daily and I wasn’t doing much physically at all. I felt quite low so comfort ate and when I was on long term antibiotics I had to eat a piece of toast with each dose as I was so nauseated. It all added up and I went up a couple of dress sizes.

It’s widely recognised that the menopause can increase your weight and the risk of osteoporosis so it’s a complete no brainer that I felt the need to start exercising as soon as I was able.

For the first six weeks post surgery I walked. I walked a lot. When you’re not allowed to drive you are quite limited. One day towards the end of my six weeks, I walked four miles just because I wanted a Big Mac. Oh yes I did. Initially I struggled to walk the 200 metres to the end of the road though. It was a gradual process to increase my steps each day. Let’s be honest, walking outside is great. I discovered local places I’d forgotten about and I got plenty of Vitamin D.

At 6 weeks post surgery, after I’d had the go ahead from my consultant, I started some one to one Pilates sessions and these have been great. Chloe has helped me to safely work on strengthening my core as well general all over strengthening. It gave me a lot of confidence to feel know I was doing the right thing. However I did also go back to the gym and join a Pilates class. My instructor there was also helpful and she suggest lower impact moves when the class was on more advanced moves.

Teaser pose (ish), not bad for two months post hysterectomy

Feeling confident with the teacher at the gym, I also joined her Body Pump and Aqua fit classes. Body Pump I’m not so keen on but I love Aquafit. It’s a lot more energetic than I thought it would be and after the class I stay and have a swim. I only do about ten lengths but it’s enough at the end of a session.

At 8 weeks I started to run again. I’ve only run twice so far but managed to go run the same distance much quicker the second time. My friend has run with me which has helped a lot, she told me off for starting off too fast yesterday. I’m atrocious at pacing myself!

I’m determined to keep up my fitness regime, it’s so important during menopause, for both short and long term health. I’m looking for new challenges too so hopefully I will be fit enough to start exploring other things soon.

Top Tips for Exercising After a Hysterectomy

Before I started to return to fitness I made certain that I was well enough to start exercising. I wanted to ensure that I was doing it in the most efficient, safe and enjoyable way.

BUILD UP YOUR STRENGTH BEFORE STARTING ANY EXERCISE PROGRAMME

After a hysterectomy it’s vital to get mobile as soon as possible so get walking in those first six weeks. Increase your distance steadily so that you can easily walk a few miles before starting any exercise.

GET THE GO AHEAD FROM YOUR DOCTOR

It’s self explanatory! Your GP or gynaecologist may want to check your stitches and that you’re healing ok. Typically a 6-8 week recovery period is recommended but speak to your doctor before starting any exercise.

START OUT WITH A SWIM

Swimming is great exercise to start with. It’s low impact and there’s minimal pressure on your abdomen. My gym has a spa area too so it’s a nice treat.

BUILD UP GRADUALLY

Exercises that focus on strengthening, such as Pilates, are really useful when returning to fitness. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some one-to-one sessions, which leads me on to…

JOIN A CLASS OR HAVE A SESSION WITH A PERSONAL TRAINER

A good personal trainer or fitness instructor can help to guide you to make the most of a workout session whilst ensuring your safety.

STOP IF YOU’RE IN PAIN OR HAVE ANY BLEEDING

Get yourself checked out by a doctor. If you’ve healed properly then this shouldn’t happen.

SAVE THE RUNNING AND WEIGHT LIFTING FOR LATER

These are my two favourites so it was hard to avoid them. Both running and weights can really stress the pelvic floor make sure that you ease into these gently. Make sure you’ve done some gentler exercises for a few weeks first.

TRY SOMETHING NEW

I’d never done Aqua-fit but I thought I’d give it a chance as it’s low impact but good aerobically. It’s now firmly in my schedule. If you didn’t exercise before surgery then look for something you think you might tolerate, you might learn to love it.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

You’ll be more tired generally anyway, but don’t push yourself too hard or too quickly. Don’t try to smash out personal bests. Stop when you’ve had enough.

DONT EXPECT TO BE AS FIT AS BEFORE

It will take time. If you regularly exercise it can be disheartening to be less fit than before but you will get there. I’m struggling with this a bit personally but I recognise that it’s all part of my recovery.

Why I Needed a Hysterectomy

I’d had gynaecological problems for as long as I can remember. My periods were really painful as a teenager and after my second child they got very heavy. It took a lot of persuading but eventually I was referred to a gynaecologist in 2011. I tried the mirena coil which didn’t suit me so I was given an endometrial ablation. My periods stopped immediately but after two years I started to get occasional episodes of pelvic pain. These got increasingly painful and more frequent and I was referred to another gynaecologist. I was diagnosed with post ablation syndrome and given anti inflammatory suppositories but no investigations were done. I was told this was all that could be done.

Fast forward to March of this year and I had stabbing pains in my left labia and a small vaginal bleed. The GP couldn’t see anything abnormal during an external examination but he said that my uterus felt bulky. He referred me to the gynaecologist for urgent review on the suspected cancer pathway.

Whilst waiting for this appointment my pain got increasingly worse, on one occasion I had to go to A&E as I was in so much pain. The day of my appointment came and I was given a trans vaginal scan where the specialist nurse spotted patches of fluid around my ovaries and fallopian tubes. She said this is usually due to an infection. I was admitted to hospital immediately and started on intravenous antibiotics. I stayed in for three nights for the antibiotics and I also had an MRI scan and biopsies. On the basis of this and my extreme pain, it was decided that I needed a hysterectomy, and removal of my fallopian tubes and ovaries. The gynaecologist didn’t think that any cancer was present so I could only be operated on as an semi urgent case. I had to wait seven weeks for surgery.

Last Wednesday I attended my follow up appointment, 6 weeks and 6 days after the surgery. I walked in to the consultation room and he said that I looked like a different person. He remarked how much more confident and happy I looked.

He started off by telling me that he’d found both endometriosis and adenomyosis, as well as infection and fluid around the ovaries and Fallopian tubes. My cervix was extremely enlarged and the adenomyosis has grown over my cervix. Removing it has been the right thing to do. Prior to today I’d never had a diagnosis of adenomyosis not endometriosis. The chronic pain I’ve had since 2013 has always been attributed to post ablation syndrome as I had an endometrial ablation in 2011 for extremely heavy periods. No-one had ever suggested adenomyosis or endometriosis and I’d had no investigations until March this year. He didn’t do any internal checks but did check my scar which has healed nicely. He was far more impressed with it than I am. It looks like a bum.

(L-R) Wound immediately post surgery, at 10 days and at 6 weeks.

The good news is that I’m now free from it all. I have full clearance to live my life normally. I can start to run again, go to the gym, swim, have sex and have a bath. Amazing. I’m looking forward to life.

Top Tips for Travelling After a Hysterectomy

Since my surgery just over six weeks ago I’ve been out and about locally. I’ve done lots of walking and I started driving short distances over the past few days. I’ve been to the cinema, out for lunch (a lot, probably too much) and to the shops. Nothing too taxing but getting me back to normality. Yesterday I had my first big day out and went to London for afternoon tea and drinks with Katie from Cake vs. Scales. Here are my tips for making those post surgery days out easier.

PLAN YOUR JOURNEY

We travelled by train and bought travelcard tickets in advance. You can reserve seats if you want to travel on specific trains too. Buying an advanced travelcard meant no queuing to buy tickets for the underground. Know your connections and where to change. Going on the train, meant that if I needed a loo stop I could do that easily. If you decide to travel by car, take a cushion to hold between your lap and seatbelt in those early days post surgery and plan lots of loo breaks. Always know where the loos are.

KEEP YOUR DAY SHORT

Usually when going to London I will go early in the day and stay as late as possible. This wasn’t a sensible option for my first day out so we didn’t leave until lunchtime and came back in the early evening. Don’t push yourself too far, no matter how much fun you’re having.

DO NOT DO MORE THAN USUAL

If you’ve only walked a few miles since your surgery, don’t try and out do yourself. Take a cab or a bus. This is not the day to be on your feet the whole time. Your body is still recovering.

TAKE LOTS OF PITSTOPS

Plan plenty of breaks for food, drinks, loo stops and a sit down. Don’t be afraid to ask for seats on public transport, you’ve earnt it!

Katie and I enjoyed a fabulous afternoon tea on Monday

GO WITH A TRUSTED FRIEND

Now isn’t the time to go travelling alone. Take a friend who knows about your surgery. Let them know if it’s too much, if you need to sit down or you can just have fun together. Chances are you’ve got a little bit bored whilst recovering and a day out is a great way to celebrate your return to everyday life.

DRESS APPROPRIATELY

Our wardrobe will change just after surgery, especially if you’ve had an open procedure. Don’t wear anything that you’ve not worn post surgery. It’s not the day to put on your skinny jeans if you haven’t worn them already. If you’ve been having hot flushes, remember to wear light clothing. You don’t want to overheat.

TRAVEL LIGHT

You shouldn’t be carrying heavy items so only take what you’re going to need. Take a bag that’s easy and comfortable to carry.

DONT FORGET

Painkillers and any other medication that you might need, change for toilets (toilets in Covent Garden cost £1 yesterday!), sanitary protection if you’re still bleeding as well as your purse, phone and an umbrella.

HAVE A CONTINGENCY PLAN

Be prepared to go home early or consider an overnight stay if you think that travelling there and back in a day is too much. Don’t plan on getting the last train home, get an earlier train. You don’t want to miss it! You may well start to tire towards the end of the day, things may take longer than usual.

HAVE FUN!

You’ve been through a lot. Physically and emotionally. Treat yourself to a wonderful time and make great memories. You deserve it.

 

Six Weeks Since My Hysterectomy

So it’s been six weeks since I had a total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, that’s the removal of my uterus, both ovaries, both fallopian tubes and my cervix through a vertical incision in my abdomen. It’s pretty major surgery so it has a long recovery time. I’ve read that it can be anything from four weeks up to a year. I made a conscious decision to try to rehabilitate as quickly as possible to get my life back, gynae issues have held me back for too long.

The vast majority of the information available gives six weeks as a good time to aim for normality, up until then your body is still healing. Before six weeks it’s recommended you shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 20lbs, do any big housework tasks such as changing a bed, have sex, go swimming, have a bath, do any exercise apart from walking or drive. In the first two weeks you shouldn’t lift anything, stretch or bend at all.

A hysterectomy is a great excuse for avoiding some things. My husband has been an absolute saint. Despite being out the house for 12 hours a day, he’s done the majority of housework. We ate ready meals a lot but that was ok. If I’d been well enough before surgery I probably would’ve batch cooked and filled the freezer but I wasn’t, so I didn’t and ready meals it was. We did pay for the ironing to be done and for a cleaner to come for two hours once a fortnight. Even easy jobs like loading a washing machine or emptying the dishwasher are difficult as you have to bend down to reach. I’d really recommend getting help if you can afford to.

However some things I really missed. The lack of exercise is a huge issue for me. I love running, swimming and the gym, I’ve missed them so much. I was unwell before the surgery so I’ve hardly done anything all year. As soon as I felt well enough after the surgery I started to go for walks. My first walk was just over a kilometre but yesterday I walked over 10 km in total. Being honest I was craving a burger so I walked to McDonald’s on the other side of town and back again. It was like a prize for my walk. Going forward I’ve got a private Pilates session booked on Saturday and I will start going to the gym next week, once I’ve checked with my consultant. I have my post surgery follow up appointment with him next Wednesday. I’m going have a bath afterwards, I’m fed up of showering.

But today was the big day. I got to use my car again! Handbag, purse, keys, go! I had checked with my insurance company beforehand, they said that I had to wait for six weeks after surgery and be sure that I could perform an emergency stop before I could drive again. Different insurance companies have different criteria so it’s best to check. There’s not too much within walking distance of my house so I had got bored with the environment, although friends had taken me out for lunch and my poor husband took me places at the weekends (I’d be waiting at the door like a toddler every Friday at 6:30pm, repeatedly asking him to take me somewhere, anywhere, even Tesco). I drove to an out of town retail park and picked up an outfit for my first big post surgery day out which is planned for Monday.

I’m really excited of the prospect of moving forward with my life without being hindered by pain, discomfort, discharge and illness. Good things are coming my way, I’m sure.

(just to add that I won’t ever be discussing my sex life on the blog, obviously my sex life is shared with my husband and it’s not something that he wants discussed and I respect his wishes).